Edward Colston (November 2, 1636 – October 11, 1721) was a Bristol-born merchant, philanthropist, MP and slave trader. He made his fortune as a member of the Mercers Company trading cloth, oil, wine, sherry and fruit with Spain, Portugal, Italy and Africa. In 1680, he became a member of the Royal African Company, which had been set up 20 earlier, with exclusive rights to run all trade on the west coast of Africa with England. As well as gold, silver, ivory, the company also traded in slaves. For the next decade Colston’s amassed a huge amount of wealth and rose through the company ranks to become Deputy Governor, the Company’s most senior executive position. It is estimated that the company transported around 84,000 African men, women and children, to the colonies in the West Indies where they were put to work on the sugar and tobacco plantations. Shortly after leaving the company in 1692 he sold his shares to William of Orange. Although his parents returned to Bristol, he did not, though he did briefly become an MP for the City. Colston instead settled at Cromwell House in Mortlake. The old property which was knocked down in 1857 was on the site of the former Stag brewery and faced onto what is now Williams Lane. In 1707, a year before his retirement, he endowed Colston Almshouses which were built at the eastern end of the road and paid towards a local school. The road itself was constructed in 1933. In more recent years the association with slavery has made the street name controversial locally.
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